Sydney, Sep 17 (UNI) Offlate all-rounder Andrew Flintoff's fitness problem has become a matter of concern for his rivals too, with Australia captain Ricky Ponting fearing a premature end to the Englishman's career if he fails to withstand the rigours of pace bowling.
''You have to think there is something pretty seriously wrong with Freddie (Flintoff).
''There have been a lot of players over the years, though, whose bodies just haven't been able to stand up to the rigours of fast bowling and whose careers have ended prematurely.
''I hope Freddie is not one of those, because he is a terrific player, a great competitor and a great person to play against,'' Ponting was as saying by 'The Australian'.
Flintoff, who seemed struggling through his four overs during Australia's emphatic victory against England in the Twenty20 World Cup encounter, has been plagued by problems in his left ankle since becoming England's 2005 Ashes hero.
He had three operations and was unable to play Test cricket the whole of this summer.
But by the end of his short bowling stint against Australia in a first round group encounter of the Twenty20 World Cup last Saturday, Flintoff grabbed at his ailing ankle in obvious discomfort and the Aussie skipper was quick to take note of that.
''The true test of fitness is how guys back up. A Twenty20 game, when you have to bowl only four overs, is a bit hard to judge.
''But with his run-up and follow-through you could see he was a bit ginger and if he's limping around and getting through like he is, having only bowled that number of overs, you have to think there is something pretty seriously wrong with him,'' he stressed.
At the start of this year, Flintoff played only a couple of matches for his countyside Lancashire, in preparation for the West Indies tour of England. But he was ruled out just before the first Test after reinjuring his ankle.
Having undergone another operation on his troublesome ankle, he then missed the whole Test and ODI series against the West Indies, and was also ruled out for the subsequent Test series against India, only to make a comeback in the the just-concluded ODI series against the 'Men In Blue' which they won 4-3.